IH Newsletter

Enews April 2021 Volume 4

Dear Friends,

Social justice, racial equity, and the humanities have always been deeply intertwined. This year, Illinois Humanities honors Dawoud Bey, a renowned photographer and chronicler. For decades, Dawoud has used his craft to illuminate tragedies and injustices, visualize and amplify the presence of ordinary citizens, and give credence to the Black experience.

Photograph: Dawoud Bey

Last week, in a New Yorker review of Dawoud’s recently released book, “Street Portraits,” writer Hanif Abdurraqib described Dawoud and his work:

“There’s a warmth that’s intrinsic to Bey’s acts of portrait-making. It makes me think about the times I’ve walked down the street feeling inconsequential or even invisible, until I pass another Black person who holds my gaze long enough for us to exchange a nod. Those moments of acknowledgement snap me back to fullness. . . . I think of Bey’s work as a nod to the nod—a gesture of grace and familiarity, made from a respectful distance. His subjects know it when they see it.”

Dawoud has gained international acclaim and has been an important educator and guiding light for upcoming artists and photographers. Dawoud’s newest exhibition, Dawoud Bey: An American Project, opened last weekend at the Whitney Museum in New York to incredible reviews including this recent article in the Washington Post.

Dawoud Bey, Don Sledge and Moses Austin, Birmingham, AL, from The Birmingham Project, 2012. Pigmented inkjet prints, 40 × 32 in. each (101.6 × 81.3 cm each). Rennie Collection, Vancouver.

Join us on May 20th for the Public Humanities Awards as we celebrate, honor, and hear from Dawoud and fellow photographer and activist Tonika Lewis Johnson.

It’s all happening on May 20th at our Public Humanities Awards, #2021PHA, a celebration of the public humanities in Illinois. The event is free to attend, but we hope you’ll consider a gift to help Illinois Humanities continue to provide humanities education, grantmaking, and public programs across Illinois. To make a gift, RSVP for the event, and learn more, click here.

With gratitude,


Gabrielle Lyon, Executive Director


P.S. #2021PHA sponsorships help us bring free humanities programming to all Illinoisans. Questions about how your gift impacts our mission? Please contact Magda Slowik for more information.